SARASOTA, Fla. -- As a warning to those who may be delusional about the American League's Grapefruit League standings, here's a reminder that two weeks into spring training is no time for early observations. So, with that warning in mind, here are a few:
Starting pitcher Andrew Cashner didn't have a pretty pitching line here in the Orioles' 7-5 win against the Tigers March 3, but with three full innings of work he jumped the other returning members of last year's rotation. A first-inning three run homer to Nick Goodrum notwithstanding, the right-hander's body of work was better than acceptable -- and three innings in his first spring start is the equivalent of a workload. Mike Wright, whose role on the staff has yet to be determined, is the only other starter who has gone three innings, but he did it on his third time out as opposed to Cashner, who made his spring debut.
With the Orioles in the midst of their much publicized rebuild, it's hard to imagine their most publicized reboot getting off to a slower start. After striking out in his first two appearances before grounding out in his third at-bat, first baseman Chris Davis has struck out seven times in 12 at-bats -- and that's a pace that's going to draw hasty attention, among other things.
This time a year ago, outfielder Anthony Santander was drawing some attention as a possible breakthrough starter in the Orioles' outfield. As a carryover Rule 5 draftee, Santander needed 45 days to complete his roster requirement, and for a moment that seemed like a formality. It didn't work out that way and, after a disappointing minor league season that didn't heighten any expectations, the switch-hitting outfielder came into camp lost in the outfield mix of Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, et al. His three hits, including an opposite field, wind encouraged three-run home run March 3 brought back some memories.
Speaking of the O's outfield alignment, it might have been premature to assume Mullins would automatically written into the Opening Day lineup. There are still a lot of decisions to be made and perhaps the most intriguing might involve Joey Rickard, the darling of the camp two years ago and also somewhat lost in the shuffle this time around. Center field is his natural position, which shouldn't be forgotten.
Richie Martin and Drew Jackson, this year's Rule 5 twins, have done nothing to question their selection or jeopardize their chances of making the 25-man roster. Martin has a chance to be the shortstop of the future and is a virtual lock to make the team. The fact that the Orioles made a trade with the Phillies to acquire Jackson is at least an indication they would consider the possibility of carrying both of the middle infielders -- even with veteran Alcides Escobar, in camp on a minor league contract invite, an attractive option.
Another thing not to be hasty about is the status of outfielder Eric Young, Jr. while contemplating the final makeup of the Orioles' roster, if indeed there will be such a thing this year. A switch-hitter with speed, Young carries a veteran presence that provides an alternative should the front office decide to further delay the time clocks of the younger candidates.
You are not going to hear Ryan Mountcastle's name mentioned when it comes to the Opening Day roster, but it would not be a shock to see him before the season is over. He still doesn't have a position he can call his own, but the general consensus is that he will be a right-handed bat to be reckoned with down the road. The most encouraging thing about the O's system is the number of promising bats.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox